Pope Francis made two steps to further LGBTQ inclusion in the church these week: condemning the persecution of lesbian/gay people and meeting with a lesbian activist who works to end conversion therapy.
” ‘I must confess,’ the pope said, departing from his prepared remarks, ‘that when I hear some speeches, some person in charge of order or the government, I am reminded of Hitler’s speeches in 1934 and 1936.’
” ‘They are actions typical of Nazism that, with its persecution of Jews, gypsies and people of homosexual orientation, represent a negative model par excellence of a throwaway culture and hate,’ the pope said. ‘That is what happened in that time and today, these things are reappearing.’ “
Francis added, per Crux, “We must be vigilant, both in the civil sphere and the ecclesial context, to avoid any possible compromise – which is assumed to be involuntary – with these degenerations.”
New Ways Ministry welcomed the pope’s statement, saying the papal words will “save lives, protect people from harm, help keep families together, and work towards eradicating hateful attitudes” and which hopefully signifies a new direction for church leaders condemning anti-LGBTQ violence and persecution. To read New Ways Ministry’s full statement, click here.
Also this week, Jayne Ozanne, a lesbian who is an Anglican and activist against conversion therapy, met with Pope Francis on Thursday. She celebrated Mass with the pope at his private chapel and had a conversation afterwards. The Tablet reported that Ozanne presented Francis with two items: a copy of Just Love, her memoir, and the report of a 2018 survey on faith and sexuality:
“In Just Love Ms Ozanne describes her own experience as a gay Christian, including the impact ‘conversion therapy’ had on her. She was hospitalised, and ostracised by many conservative Christians after she recovered and came out as gay.
“Ms Ozanne told the Pope that she was a gay, evangelical Anglican, and had grown up in a Church that told her ‘she could never be a wife, a mother or a grandmother’, that she had tried to make herself straight through conversion therapy, and that treatments such as conversion therapy had an enormous impact on young people, leading many to consider suicide. She told the Pope that her prayer is ‘for everyone to know they are precious children of God, just as they are’.
“Asked by a translator whether he knew what conversion therapy was, Pope Francis said he did.
“Pope Francis then said to Ms Ozanne: ‘Please pray for me as I pray for you’.”
Ozanne said that “the warmth of [Francis’] welcome and his kindness, showed the kind of pastor he really is.” It was a “very moving” meeting and “an experience I’ll never forget,” she added. LGBTQ Nation reported that for many years Ozanne, who has served on the Church of England’s Archbishops’ Council and the General Synod at various points, practiced celibacy for many years before coming out in 2015. She has become an LGBTQ activist since that time.
Pope Francis’ dual actions this week to condemn the persecution of lesbian/gay people and, at least through Ozanne’s reports, express concern about conversion therapy crucially link Francis’ strong concern for human rights with LGBTQ people’s suffering. While the pope has changed neither church teaching nor discipline, his actions are a hopeful modeling to show other church leaders how they should be approaching LGBTQ issues. In both his public statement and private meeting this week, Pope Francis has advanced the causes of LGBTQ human rights and equality in the church.
—Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, November 16, 2019